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Jacobs, Joela M
Assistant Professor

Dr. Joela Jacobs is Assistant Professor of German Studies and Director of Graduate Studies for the MA and PhD programs in Transcultural German Studies, including the dual PhD/Dr. phil. degree program with the Universities of Leipzig and Cologne in Germany. She is affiliated faculty at the Arizona Institutes for Resilience: Solutions for the Environment and Society, the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, and the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program on Social, Cultural and Critical Theory. After earning her Ph.D. in Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago, she held a postdoctoral position as Humanities Teaching Scholar there. Prior to coming to the US from Germany, she studied at the Universities of Bonn, St. Andrews, and the Freie Universität Berlin to receive her M.A. in German and English Philology. 

Dr. Jacobs' research focuses on the intersection of 19th-21st century German literature and film with Plant Studies, Animal Studies, Environmental Humanities, Jewish Studies, the History of Sexuality, and the History of Science. She has published articles on monstrosity, multilingualism, literary censorship, biopolitics, animal epistemology, zoopoetics, critical plant studies, cultural environmentalism, and contemporary German Jewish identity. She also founded the Literary and Cultural Plant Studies Network together with Dr. Isabel Kranz at the University of Vienna and the support of artist Dani Stuchel.

Currently, she is finishing a monograph called "Vegetal, Animal, Marginal: The German Literary Grotesque from Panizza to Kafka," which examines a preoccupation with non-human forms of life in the micro-genre of the literary grotesque (die Groteske) around 1900, which begins with Oskar Panizza's neo-romantic work in the 1890s, becomes a central element of modernism with authors such as Hanns Heinz Ewers and Salomo Friedlaender, and culminates in Franz Kafka's unique oeuvre. This genre creates a field of artistic experimentation that allows for the transgression of categories such as species, race, and gender by introducing a non-human perspective on sexual and linguistic normativity. The vegetal, animal, and marginalized human figures at the center of these grotesque texts challenge biopolitical measures of control through, for instance, their non-conformity with standard human language. This linguistic limitation is reinforced by the genre’s response to mechanisms of literary censorship, which resulted in new modes of expressing political dissent during modernity’s language crisis. One of these central strategies is the texts' provocative use of grotesque humor vis-à-vis normative conceptions of what it means to be human, which also marks the genre's distinct historical scope, as it perceptively critiques the rise of the New Human from 19th-century physiognomy to the wake of the Nazi rule. 

Dr. Jacobs enjoys being in the classroom, both to teach the intricacies of German literature and language and to explore interdisciplinary connections surrounding fundamental questions about life and living beings with students. She has taught a wide range of courses on all levels of the German college curriculum and in adult & general education on topics such as German environmentalism, transatlantic perspectives on national trauma, (a)typical emotions in poetry, zombies, monsters, and fairy tales, Kafka's oeuvre, expressionist film, romanticism, and German Jewish literature. As a certified Teaching Consultant, she is always interested in talking pedagogy and classroom technology. In 2019, she won the College of Humanities Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2020, she was honored with the University of Arizona Foundation Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award.

Currently Teaching

GER 160A1 – From Animation to Zombies: The Ethics, (Bio)Politics and Aesthetics of Defining Life

What is life? This course invites you to probe the definitions of one of the most central terms of human existence from A like animation (or animals, AI, aliens) to Z like zombies. In order to understand and critically examine what constitutes life in diverse cultural contexts and at different historical moments, and how these definitions have been shaping the way various life forms have been treated, we will engage with interdisciplinary perspectives from the sciences, arts, and humanities that will help us explore the ethical, (bio)political, and aesthetic consequences of defining life and its limits.

GER 376 – German-Jewish Writers

Focuses on the contributions of Jewish writers to German culture. Taught in English.

GER 393 – Internship

Specialized work on an individual basis, consisting of training and practice in actual service in a technical, business, or governmental establishment.

GER 273 – Wicked Tales and Strange Encounters: German Romanticism and Beyond

The 19th century introduces us to the strange figures with which we have become fascinated: We only need to turn on the TV to find these same fairy tales and magical events, mythical creatures and hybrid monsters, ghosts and other undead. These motifs, their contexts, and their development in the past and present will guide us in our exploration of 19th-century literature, art, and music of the German-speaking countries from romanticism to the cusp of modernism. Taught in English.

GER 498H – Honors Thesis

An honors thesis is required of all the students graduating with honors. Students ordinarily sign up for this course as a two-semester sequence. The first semester the student performs research under the supervision of a faculty member; the second semester the student writes an honors thesis.

GER 508 – Approaches to German Studies